Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Mt Stilwell Chair

There was once a chairlift that connected Charlottes Pass to the Thredbo Valley. I’m not kidding, there was.

It seems that this part of our history has largely been forgotten as many people I have spoken to have never heard of the chair. Indeed, I have only become aware of this feat of our early ski industry in the past two years.

The chair was constructed between 1963 and 1964 and ran from Charlotte Pass village past Mt Stilwell, across Wrights Creek and then down the Twin Valleys to the Alpine Way.

The chair operated for only one year. High winds caused operational difficulties, especially in the event of emergencies. Apparently, the chair was dismantled and sold to Jamberoo Recreation Park on the NSW south coast.

The Chairlift was advertised as the longest chairlift in the world but that claim was not widely accepted, since it was actually two chairs which both terminated at the central restaurant. The lift had 50 towers, 8 stations and stretched over 5.5km.

Here are some pics I dug up on from the NLA, wikiski and ozbc.








After removing the towers and chairs, the stations at either end of the chair, and also the mid station remained. The legend goes that the mid station was used as target practice by the Australian Defence Force. The Twin Valleys station on the Alpine Way is now owned by the NSW NPWS. The Charlotte Pass station is used as staff housing.

I was lucky enough to make it out to the remains of the mid station last winter. The two bullwheels remain as well as an old motor. The location is very isolated and exposed and must have been a nightmare to manage during difficult conditions.





Over summer I have been keen to hike out to the mid station ruins and have a look.

Firstly, in the interest of completeness, here are some photos of the Twin Valleys and Charlotte Pass stations as they now exist.

Twin Valleys station, used as a ranger station now largely vacant






Charlotte Pass station, used for staff accom






On a sunny, autumn day we trekked out to the mid station ruins. Early autumn snowdrifts from a storm the previous week were hanging around creating a beautiful autumn landscape.





To get there you must first walk to Mt Stilwell from the Charlotte Pass turning circle. Once reaching the saddle between Mt Stilwell and little Stilwell, you follow the snow poles across Wrights Creek. Then look right, to the south, at a large rocky outcrop and you should see it.

Follow the poles…





Crossing Wrights Creek





And then you get there, the ruins of the Charlotte Pass to Thredbo chair



Eye to the Thredbo Valley beyond



Beautiful vistas to take in



Small survival hut down in the Twin Valleys




To get back to Charlotte Pass you must again follow the snow poles. The last section before you hit the car park you come across another relic, the ruins of one of Australia’s first ski tows.



Here you end up back at the hoards of tourists and hikers at the turning circle car park.

It is all a bit surreal.

*Big thanks to the work and photos of others in creating this post, specifically the WikiSki contributors and OzBC.

http://wikiski.com/wiki/index.php/Thredbo_to_Charlotte_Pass_Chairlift

http://www.ozbc.net/nsw_stanleytwin.html

10 comments:

  1. Lovely. Very surreal. Thank you. I remember my disappointment as a kid that by 1965 it was shut! Not that I could ski worth a crumpet then...

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  2. Andrew PinkertonJuly 5, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Great blog Pini enjoying all your subjects and wanderings, especially this one. A few years ago I began a topic concerning the old chair on Ski.com and it generated a lot of interest, great job my friend, looking forward to your next wander....thanks!!
    Andrew
    p.s what camera do you use?

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  3. Thanks Andrew, nice to know people enjoy my blog.

    I have a canon 60D and also a cheap canon point and shoot. I use photoshop and paint.NET for post processing.

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  4. Ski.com has a thread about the Thredbo to CP Chairlift, actually the Charlottes Pass to Alpine Way Chairlift as it terminated on the Alpine Way well away from Thredbo. Those are great pics and a great blog thank you. I was in charge of the Charlottes pass side of the chair during the 65 season and lived at TOP Station for that season. That summer I was the last person to leave top station after boarding up the kitchen windows. The thread on Ski is worth a read as Diponza plans to write a book about this piece of unique and amazing Australian ski history.

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  5. Thanks for the comment, that thread is what inspired me to check out what remains of the chair. It must have been amazing to be involved in its operation, its a pretty isolated area. Hopefully Diponza can produce the book, it would be a great read.

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  6. For a short time after the closure of the lift the now rangers station operated as a commercial lodge. I worked there in 1966 but remember neither the name of the owners (Lessees) nor the name given the lodge (if any) Does anyone have any memory of this?

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  7. Hi Marion, thanks for commenting. It must have been amazing working in such a beautiful location. If you would like some more info, many of the contributors on ski.com.au have some history with the chairlift.

    This thread has a lot of info, it has been going for 5 years and has 18 pages!

    Click here!

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    Replies
    1. Marion sorry for the slow response. While I was working on the lift the people who managed and ran the Alpine way restaurant were a Mr & Mrs. Gunsell, hope the spelling is correct. They were a great couple and the platform staff for the Alpine way base station also stayed in that building. I do not recall it being operated as a private business. After the chair closed and in the same summer I was based around there for awhile as a sort of caretaker. I have no idea what happened to the property after that. How long were you there for ? and when.

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